Mr. Deputy Speaker : The matters that I have heard referred to in the course of the debate are matters which, if the House approved the motion before it, could doubtless be considered and determined by the Committee that will consider the Bill in the fullness of time.
Mr. Ron Davies : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want to refer to the terms of the motion and especially the fifth paragraph, which says : "That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126, relating to Private Business".
The constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) who have now been omitted by the redrawing of the map will be denied the opportunity to petition against the Bill because the map was redrawn following the examination of the Bill by the House of Lords and before the expiry of the Session. Can you give us some guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whether we are now able to proceed with the Bill, knowing that we are, in effect, disfranchising 500 of those constituents--or at least withdrawing their right to petition against the Bill?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I am afraid that I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman is precise terms whether petitioners who might be affected by these later developments would be within time to submit their petitions. However, I have no doubt that it would be possible for the Committee of the House to have regard to and to take into account what has been said in this debate in its deliberations on the Bill.
Mr. Ron Davies : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to pursue the matter, but it is a serious point. If I have understood your ruling correctly, you are saying that the Committee that will consider the detail of the Bill will not be bound by the terms of the motion. If that is the case, should we be discussing--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman asked a question that rightly arose from the paragraph, to which he referred, about the rights of petitioners, as distinct from the rights of Members of this House. I cannot say off-hand--and it would be unwise for me to make an off-the-cuff remark which might prejudice the rights of petitioners--whether there are those who might wish to present a petition and who might be excluded by the terms of that paragraph. However, there would be nothing to prevent the Committee from listening to and taking account of the submissions made by hon. Members in the debate and therefore having regard to the points raised.
Mr. Michael : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should point out that an undertaking has been given to restore the line to the point where everybody thought it was. There is no question of anybody being disfranchised. The question simply does not arise.
Mr. Morgan : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- although I do not know whether I can make a point of order in the middle of my speech--I think that I may be able to help you. The date of 24 July was the last on which petitioners could lodge objections in this House. Do I sit down now?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Yes. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) suggested that all that had happened was that there had been a reversion to what was previously understood about the scope of the Bill in this respect. He suggested--and it would be improper for me to suggest that he was doing anything other than correctly guiding the House-- that because the previous delineations were sufficiently known at the relevant time, those who had the right to petition did so and that what is now at issue does not expose the delineations to new petitioners who might be excluded by the time limits. I hope that that is clear.
Mr. Morgan : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If only that were true. What could easily have happened to all or any of the 850 homes and few businesses in the areas affected is that if they had proceeded on the basis of the document on which they thought they were relying, they would have proceeded on the basis that they did not need to petition because they were within the line. They did not, therefore, petition. If they then find that they are outside the line and want to petition about that fact, they have lost the right to do so. Can they have that right restored by the alteration that my
Column 249hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has, in all sincerity, suggested may be made? That is why I am concerned about my constituents' rights.
Mr. Michael : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I tried to explain, surely the position as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) thought it was a fortnight ago--and he was not sure that there was a problem until this weekend--has been put right. The position is once again as he and everyone else understood it, so there is no problem.
Mr. Rogers : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am genuinely confused now. As I understand the terms of the motion, we are considering a Bill that has been through the House of Lords and has now come here. The argument is that it is now in a fit and proper state to be extended to the next Session of Parliament. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has submitted that the Bill is not properly prepared to proceed in the next Session. To reinforce my hon. Friend's argument, the evidence for that is that the boundary of the area that will be affected by the Bill has now been altered. Can you help me on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
Certain facts were put to the people of Cardiff, who then had the right to petition. At that time, there were many people who did not petition against the Bill because the boundary, as delineated on the map, did not affect them. After the Bill has gone through the House of Lords and come here, as a matter--
Mr. Rogers : I should still like your clarification on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the Bill is not in a fit and proper state to go through to the next Session, you must rule that the motion is out of order and under the terms of the motion, you do not have any option but to do that. If people have not had the right to petition, if the Bill has not been properly prepared and if it is proceeding on the basis of statistics and information that have been altered by a conservation--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has gone sufficiently far for the House and myself to have grasped the point. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) has said that it is now clear that the people affected by the scope of the Bill are those who it was assumed would be affected at the relevant date. No one is apparently affected now who has not already had the right to petition. In any case, these are not matters that lead the Chair to rule on the validity of the motion, but matters that doubtless will be taken into account when hon. Members reach a decision on the motion before the House and in the subsequent proceedings on the Bill should the House decide to approve the motion.
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you explain to the House whether, in your other role as Chairman of Ways and Means, you would sanction a Bill coming to the House tonight if it was not in order, or would you rule it out of order, if it was?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Member and the House know that, when a private Bill is submitted to the House, it goes before the Examiners, who scrutinise the vires and satisfy themselves that the Bill is in order. Only then is the Bill allowed to seek further progress in the House. It is not necessary for me to give any further clarification. I hope that the position is now clear and that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West will resume his speech.
Mr. Ron Davies : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you received notice that the boundaries have been revised or any legal or other advice about the Bill, now that these amendments, post-Lords but pre-Commons, have been incorporated in the map?
Mr. Morgan : I shall resume my speech, but I wish to raise one additional point of great importance which has been overlooked in the past five minutes of exchanges. Extreme care is always taken by those advising petitioners about the phrasing of petitions. If someone lives on one side of a line defined in the Bill, his petition must be phrased in a certain way and it is ruled invalid if a form of words is used which hints that he lives on the other side of the line. Someone within a protected property zone must frame his petition making it clear that he is a householder or the owner of a business within the zone. If the property or business is on the other side of the line, the petition must be phrased differently to be in order. That point must be borne in mind.
Let us consider the general state of the Bill. The motion is not an automatic carry-over motion but a debatable one. I put it to the House that the Bill is not fit to be carried over because it is defective. We have to accept the word of the promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, that a mistake in the Bill can be put right, but that does not alter the fact that the Bill is defective. He may maintain that it is not very defective, but 850 homes, a hospital and a substantial number of small and medium-sized businesses constitute a sufficiently significant defect to rule the Bill not fit to be carried over. How great an error must the Bill contain to stop it being carried over automatically? In my view, a substantial number of businesses, a hospital and 850 homes in my constituency render the Bill sufficiently defective.
The question whether the Bill is defective is primarily a matter of procedure. I have nothing to show my constituents to prove that the Bill will be put right. I have received no form of communication, either from the promoters or their parliamentary agents.
When deciding whether the Bill is sufficiently close to achieving its objectives to require us to carry it over from one parliamentary Session to another, we must consider whether the Bill commands general support in the community in Cardiff. The Bill is supported by both the local authorities and the appropriate Government Department. However, there is an archaeological freezing process in Government Departments and local authorities which does not apply to public opinion. When a Government Department and two local authorities become committed to a scheme, they find it extremely difficult to change their minds, whatever new information becomes available.
Column 251The Bill stems from studies carried out in 1985 by the present Secretary of State's predecessor when he represented Pembroke. The measure was eventually presented in the form of a statutory instrument to set up the urban development corporation in March 1987, when the then right hon. Member for Pembroke was still Secretary of State. In a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments on 31 March under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), the Secretary of State said :
"At the end of 1985, I decided to commission a study of the investment potential in the area with particular reference to the benefits which would flow from the construction of a barrage across the estuaries of the Taff and Ely rivers close to the entrance of Cardiff harbour."
That goes back four years. He continued :
"The results confirmed our view"--
I am not sure who "our" was : perhaps the Secretary of State and a property consultant--
"that it should be possible not just to breathe new life into south Cardiff but to bring forward private sector investment on such a large scale that the project would become one of international significance."--[ Official Report : Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments &c. ; 31 March 1987, c. 4.]
The idea for the barrage was then presented to the two local authorities and it was proposed that some of the senior councillors become members of the urban development corporation. That is what occurred ; a minority of five out of 14 councillors on the corporation are nominated by the local authorities. That is a far superior way of achieving regeneration of a run- down inner-city area than the model normally followed in England, where no local authority representatives are appointed to the body responsible, but it posed a major problem. It meant that, when dissent emerged in the community as more facts became known, it was more difficult for the supertanker of local authorities and the Government Department, aiming straight for the Titanic, to turn themselves around in time because dissent was seen not merely as the result of new information but as a breach of the code of le se majeste or hara-kiri or omerta .
Mr. Michael : Does my hon. Friend accept that the monitoring committees and liaison committees established in both local authorities did not include in their membership the members nominated to the board and so gave the element of independence encouraged by both local authorities? Those committees could look critically and constructively at much of the detail as the matter proceeded.
Mr. Morgan : No, I do not agree with that. My hon. Friend is right that monitoring committees were set up by both authorities but, as I said, because of le se-majeste it is psychologically difficult for local authorities to say, "New information has come in which makes us more doubtful. We had better have a general debate about it." They cannot do that simply because their most senior councillors are on the urban development corporation, albeit in a permanent built-in minority.
I do not criticise the local authorities. I would probably have done similarly had I been a councillor. Local authority opinion could not shift as easily as public opinion when new facts emerged to cast doubt on the validity of the original assumptions of 1985 and the
Column 252establishment of the UDC in 1987, following the meeting chaired by the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West. Local authorities could not divert from the direction upon which they had embarked under the tutelage of the Secretary of State, whatever the private opinion of individual councillors. I make no comment on councillors' private opinions. They are a matter of speculation. We can judge only by the council's decision or lack of decision to change its mind when new facts become available. That is not true for the public and it certainly is not true for us tonight. We all have a free hand to look at the merits of the case for the carry-over motion because we are not Whipped. We can see whether the Bill comes close to achieving its objectives in relation to jobs and improvements in the environment which were fairly set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth.
Would the proposal bring anywhere near the number of jobs talked about in the Bill's preamble or would it have the reverse effect? That seems highly relevant to the carry-over motion. A large number of jobs--about 15,000-- already exist within the area covered by the urban development corporation's compulsory purchase order comprehensive redevelopment area.
When I spoke to the officials who have the tricky task of putting into action the relocation programme, they told me that we would do well to keep half those jobs after they had been relocated to make way for redevelopment. That seems to pose a considerable problem for us when we consider whether the Bill is worthy of a carry-over motion. We have to contemplate the possibility that not only might the proposal not achieve the 30,000 jobs that have been spoken about in the long term, but it might take away 7,500 jobs from the total 15,000 jobs that currently exist. The number of jobs lost may be only 5, 000, since not everything would be comprehensively redeveloped, although large areas would be. According to those most closely involved in the relocation of jobs, we would start with a major loss of jobs.
Mr. Michael : Would not my hon. Friend accept that this was precisely the important point which I addressed in my question to the Secretary of State which he answered yesterday? His reassurances of his determination to ensure the retention of jobs play an important role in the way in which we shall pursue the development which will follow on from the barrage.
Mr. Morgan : I accept the sincerity of my hon. Friend's remarks, but regard his point as a minor one compared to the problem which will be caused because many businesses in this area which now pay low rents will have to pay about four times the present level. They will move to highly desirable new industrial estates, but they will have to pay the rent, rates and insurance, all of which are connected with the rental levels.
I fear that the jobs argument is so distant from the preamble to the Bill that it harms not just the case for the Bill, but the prospects of granting the carry-over motion.
Mr. Ray Powell : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to pose a question on an issue about which we are all concerned : the number of people which it is suggested could be employed if the carry-over motion were agreed and the scheme were introduced. It is estimated that the scheme will bring more than 30,000 jobs into the area. I am only suggesting that as an estimate and I
Column 253appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend that jobs could be lost. Nevertheless, on balance, we could gain about 22,500 jobs in the long term even if we lost the 7,500 jobs which he suggests might go in the short term.
Mr. Morgan : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who always expresses himself with such great sincerity on these matters. Anybody who says that he has found the technique of creating 30,000 jobs in south Wales has been carefully hiding himself in the bushes during the past 50 years. The regional policy has operated since the special areas legislation was introduced in the early 1930s.
It is possible to build accommodation for 30,000 jobs. However, that is quite different from finding the occupiers of those builders rather than the property speculators who put up the buildings. What businesses will they be? Where will they come from? Will they be local to south Wales? I am deeply sceptical about any estimate involving job numbers of about 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000. It is terribly easy to talk about those figures, but awfully difficult to demonstrate the reality which lies behind such estimates.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : Is my hon. Friend ignoring the experience of the major towns and cities of south Wales during the past 20 years in which there has been inertia and expressions have been made against change? Experience has shown that, when areas have been upgraded, there has been an increase in jobs. Is my hon. Friend arguing for a continuation of the industrial slums which were widespread in south Wales during the past 50 years, some of which, unfortunately, still continue? Does not my hon. Friend see that such upgrading is of enormous benefit?
Mr. Morgan : I think my hon. Friend is arguing that Hermann Goering was the greatest contributor to comprehensive redevelopment that we have ever seen in this country. It is inappropriate to say that while standing in the Chamber of the House of Commons which he successfully bombed in May 1941.
Most of the jobs that have been created in south Wales have been created on green field sites on the fringes of towns. The TSB in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) is on a classic green field site development and promises a large number of new jobs. I could also mention city centre developments such as NPI in Cardiff, which does not demonstrate that this proposition--
Mr. Flynn : My hon. Friend must see the other side of the coin which is that the creation of those jobs is at the expense of the destruction of old industries in unsuitable areas in which industry lived cheek by jowl with housing. There has been large-scale redevelopment, where much of the old pattern of industry and the bad examples of the past have disappeared to enormous benefit. Is not that what will happen when the Cardiff Bay barrage is introduced?
Mr. Morgan : My hon. Friend is talking about a new sort of religious concept whereby demolition and creation take place simultaneously. There are extreme risks in the notion expressed by my hon. Friend that sweeping things away is a creative procedure. The people who worked in the factories would not take that view.
Column 254redevelopment of the centre of Cardiff? The regeneration of Cardiff through programmes such as the Cardiff and Vale enterprise has encouraged local people to set up in business and makes us optimistic that we may continue to do better, rather than worse, than promised.
Mr. Morgan : I am not sure what that proves. Redevelopment in the centre of Cardiff is one thing, but the comprehensive redevelopment and change of use down in the Cardiff docklands--covered by the compulsory purchase order area in the Bill--seems to be entirely different.
Mr. Rogers : My hon. Friend should accept the arguments of his other hon. Friends that, undoubtedly, redevelopment will lead to new jobs. There is absolutely no doubt about that, and anyone who argues against the fact that this is one side of the coin would be wrong. Will my hon. Friend develop this point, as I am sure he would want to--
Mr. Rogers : A large impounded lagoon is unlikely to create many jobs. The barrage is not required to create the jobs. What is required is a redevelopment of the docklands area of Cardiff which is already served by an extension of the motorway. I am sure that my hon. Friend is going to develop the point that it is not necessary to have a barrage to redevelop Cardiff. I support the redevelopment of Cardiff, but not a barrage.
Mr. Morgan : I was moving on to that point about 10 minutes ago. The other unsatisfactory aspect of the new jobs issue is that in front of the House of Lords not a single investor other than those paid as consultants by the Cardiff Bay development corporation appeared as witnesses to give any support to the proposition that this redevelopment and barrage would create additional jobs or investment.
I shall turn to the environment and the possibility--I put it no higher than that--that the Bill, far from achieving its objective of improving the environment and thereby creating a more aesthetically pleasing environment for potential investors, could have the reverse effect. This point has already been alluded to in one of the innumerable interventions in my speech.
As far as I am aware, there is no dispute about the nature of the water that would be impounded by the barrage. It is generally accepted that the colour of the lake would alternate between green and brown, depending on the weather and the microbiological conditions. At no time of the year, and in no weather conditions, would it be blue or brilliant. The water would also be turgid. The problem with impounding the Rivers Taff and Ely, in terms of distancing the Bill from the preamble, is that the water might, to use the modern American usage, be a turn-off for investors, rather than a turn-on. The reason for that is that the rivers Taff and Ely, almost throughout their length of between 20 and 30 miles, have sewage outlets, many of which are not mapped by the relevant monitoring authorities. As a result, their microbiological quality is extremely poor, but this is the water that would be impounded. This will cause two problems. First, in the winter, the storm overflows from the joint sewers that handle rain water and sewage would lead to sewage overflowing the weir, whereas normally it would be below the weir. Storm
Column 255conditions are by no means confined to winter in south Wales. Such an overflow would force sewage over the weir and into the Rivers Taff, Ely, Cynon and Rhondda, and their various tributaries.
Secondly, in the summer, treated sewage becomes a significant proportion of the water-flow. The National Rivers Authority has informed me that in a typical summer--let alone this summer, which was particularly dry--one third of the flow of the river Ely is treated sewage, as is one sixth of the flow of the river Taff. That is why at Radyr weir, in my constituency and near where I was born and brought up, the smell is similar to that I remember smelling 40 years ago as a small boy cycling along the edge of the weir. I am told by the NRA that that is a sign of how difficult summer conditions are for any impounded or semi-impounded body of water, such as Radyr weir. This problem is made worse with a large body of water, with sunlight playing on its shallow parts. It is more than likely that as a result, every five or six years, there will be a major algal bloom and a probable major fishkill, thereby rendering coarse fishery virtually impossible. If that happens, there cannot be a biological control of the midge explosion that would probably also occur.
Mr. Morgan : Comparisons with Venice are delightful, but I do not think that we can assume that the carry-over motion will do away with seven centuries of history in south Wales and northern Italy and give us an Adriatic environment.
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) : I hesitate to intervene in this internecine warfare, but are we to understand that a democratically elected city council and a democratically elected county council, properly advised on all these matters concerning sewage--about which the hon. Gentleman is clearly an expert--have reached the conclusion that the Bill is a good thing? If so, why does the hon. Gentleman wish to overturn the decision of those democratically elected bodies properly advised? I am, in the true sense of the word, disinterested in the Bill, but I am not uninterested because there will be a Mersey barrage at some stage, and we shall have to go through the same sort of procedure.
Mr. Morgan : I understand why the hon. Gentleman was so hesitant about intervening. Had he been paying attention earlier, he would have heard me say that it was a sad day when the Opposition found themselves in such a difficult position. The Secretary of State has made a Mafia-type offer--an offer that one cannot refuse--to the two local authorities. It was that either they had an urban development corporation imposed on them with no local authority representation or there would be one with
Column 256built-in minority local authority representation. Quite rightly--I offer no criticism of this--the councils chose the second option. Just because one of those authorities is Labour- controlled and the other has a Labour majority in a hung council, we should not feel that we cannot speak on the issue or consider it. We are considering a germ of an idea produced by the Secretary of State and it is up to us to examine it thoroughly, regardless of the fact that a minority of the members of the UDC were Labour councillors and that--in my view, although there may be other views--the local authority has been severely inhibited in its ability to cope with the new information that has emerged about water quality. I was referring to that when I was interrupted for the 67th time. I find being interrupted restful. I am grateful for the sympathy of my hon. Friends. I could do with a glass of water, but I am all right.
I must make a point about the groundwater and the potential damage, which is closely related to the procedural issue that I raised when I began. There are questions about whether the Bill has been adequately prepared, given our knowledge about groundwater. Regardless of where the water came from, we need to look at whether Bills should come before the House when they have not been properly researched and when an offer is made to residents--the constituents of many of us--that they will be covered against the damage created by this project. We do not know how extensive that damage could be, or even whether the council is on the right lines in calculating what the groundwater damage is likely to be. There is a wide divide between geologists on this. Some of them take the view that a Mickey Mouse study has been done, to use the words of one geologist, who lives in Cardiff. It is felt that they have not even started to get the geological studies right because of the Mickey Mouse computer model.
In listening to the views of geologists, I have found that those who know the south Wales area well, who either live, work or were raised there, or educated there in geological faculties in universities, take the view that this has been inadequately researched. Those who are paid by the Cardiff Bay development corporation and have little experience of the local geological factors and in particular the odd combinations of rainfall and river flows and the nature of the aquifer under Cardiff, take the view that there is no problem.
Those geologists who have not been paid by the company--there are some exceptions--are concerned about the way that research has been done into what lies underneath Cardiff. There should be work on the aquifer and how that interrelates with rainfall and flood water conditions. Those who have much less experience of south Wales are for the plan.
I am extremely concerned about whether the Bill even begins to fulfil its preamble by way of being able to assure the people living in my constituency.
Mr. Rogers : My hon. Friend is right to bring up that point, and if he does not go on too long, I hope to do the same. As he knows, I am an engineering geologist by profession. Some of the information submitted in support of the Bill at various times to seek the support of hon.
Column 257Members--I refer to the glossy paper that I have with me--is riddled with inaccuracies. I advise my hon. Friend that those independent geologists who have examined the Wallace Evans report, as I have--people who have been involved and who know the situation as I do-- see the report as having been prepared hurriedly and as being riddles with inaccuracies. Just over a year ago when the development corporation held a symposium in the Institution of Civil Engineers across the road and the same questions were asked, I later received the written affirmation that some of the surveys had not yet been completed.
Mr. Morgan : I defer to my hon. Friend's vastly superior knowledge of the geology of south Wales and elsewhere. My hon. Friend was not one of the geologists I was quoting, but his intervention further reinforces my argument.
In the last minute or so of my speech, I shall refer to the state that the Bill should be in if it were to deserve a carry-over. The thing that repels me most about granting the Bill a carry-over is simply the extremely corrupt and corrupting procedure by which it has arrived here from the other House. I refer to the fact that a Secretary of State can set up an urban development corporation and then, having retired from politics, become involved in a monitoring and regulatory body which has a vital set of decisions to make about water quality, which is critical to the success or otherwise of the Bill in achieving what is stated in its preamble, and that he can then get a directorship with a major company, which is easily the largest landholder in the area covered by the compulsory purchase order.
That is a preposterous situation, especially for Conservative Members. After all, the ABP company was a nationalised company which, in general, Conservative Members were extremely proud to privatise. However, in Cardiff it was renationalised with the setting up of the urban development corporation, which included the whole area of Cardiff docks in its compulsory purchase order. We then found that, following the acquisition of new directors, the company was to be privatised again and to be exempted from the compulsory purchase order procedure and that a profit-sharing formula was to be set up between the urban development corporation, the nationalised industry, and the former nationalised industry, ABP. That will cause deep misgivings to anybody involved with the compulsory purchase order affecting Cardiff docks. How can it make sense for a nationalised industry to be privatised, then renationalised in respect of its Cardiff docklands, and then privatised again?
All that I can say about the previous Secretary of State is that power is delightful, and absolute power is absolutely delightful. The carry-over motion gives us the chance to stop the process. I have already mentioned one defect in the Bill, which has plainly failed its MOT. Surely it is time that the House took it right off the road.
Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West) : I am very much encouraged by the debate and by the evidence that it is occasionally permissible to criticise or even oppose one's leader. Heaven knows, the private Bill procedure is cumbersome enough and I know that it can be objected to, but it is nowhere near as cumbersome as a public inquiry. However, that is rather like saying that Tantalus's job was an easy one compared with that of Sisyphus. The plain fact
Column 258is that the combination of our procedures for dealing with private Bills and with public inquiries is one reason why we have such difficulty carrying through any great enterprise in this country. Such difficulties remind me of the problems of trying to pass the Soviet driving test in the good old days before glasnost when I was at the embassy in Moscow. During the two years I was there in the 1950s, nobody succeeded in passing the Soviet driving test. There was always some point on which one could be made to fail.
It has emerged that Opposition Members are somewhat divided in their attitude to the merits of the Bill and to the acceptability of the carry- over motion. By and large, the opposition comes, as it obviously would, from those hon. Members whose constituencies will not benefit. I say straight away that my constituency will not benefit from this scheme in any way. Cardiff is a long way from us in north Wales. It takes a long time to get there. Indeed, it takes a lot longer to get to Cardiff than it does to get to London or Birmingham, and it certainly takes a great deal longer than it does to get to Liverpool.
My constituents are much more concerned about the horrible things that are being done in Liverpool bay, where sewage is being dumped all over the place and is being washed up on our beaches. My constituents believe that far too much fuss is made about south Wales, where people persist in playing football with a ball that is the wrong shape.
Therefore, it is not on constituency grounds that I support the Bill. I support it because this is an imaginative scheme that will make Cardiff one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world. In the long run, what is good for Cardiff must be good for Wales and what is good for Wales will in the end be good for my constituency.
It is a national failing that in Wales and in the United Kingdom as a whole, except at moments of supreme national peril, we are unable to rise to the level of events. I cite in evidence most of the reactions to the momentous events in eastern Europe. I cannot conceive of the kind of debate that we have had so far taking place in the French or German Parliaments. The debate is befugged with parish pump and other procedural objections. France and Germany are used to great national undertakings. One can see the evidence when one visits Paris. Although some people may regret some of the recent constructions of President Mitterrand and Mr. Chirac, undoubtedly the citizens of Paris now take great pride in them, however much they may have argued at the time.
The reluctance of the British Government and people to think big has been well exemplified in the debates on the Channel tunnel. The consequence for us in Wales is that we will not get the maximum benefit from the tunnel because of our petty-minded approach to the construction of the road and railway systems that are necessary to ensure that the benefits of the tunnel are spread throughout the country. Witness in contrast the attitude of the French Government, who are building roads and railways to ensure that the prosperity of the tunnel is conveyed throughout northern and western France. I know that there are valid doubts about the barrage scheme and that people are worried about the effect on bird migration--I believe that those worries are overstated--and about the effect on the micro- climate. I have some doubts, too, about whether the quality of the architecture will match the boldness of the concept. However, by and large it seems a bold and imaginative scheme. It will create
Column 259jobs and make Cardiff one of the great cities of the world. I am glad to be here to support the Bill and the carry -over motion. 8.7 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly) : First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) on the way in which he presented his case. I know that he has worked hard with the promoters and that he has a close relationship with individuals on the development corporation and in south Glamorgan. We all recognise that in presenting the Bill he is performing what he sees to be his proper duty. Needless to say, I disagree with almost all that he said.
My hon. Friend said that there were two important elements to his case : first, jobs ; and secondly, the environment. His case on jobs was that the barrage was necessary because it would create jobs not only during its construction, but in terms of the opportunities for development. That is his case and that of the development corporation and the county council. Indeed, I understand that it was the subject of much detailed examination in the House of Lords and that their Lordships came to the conclusion that the case had been proved. I am not convinced of that. I have examined the evidence that was presented to the House of Lords, and it remains an assertion that the construction of the barrage will per se provide an attractive opportunity for private capital to come in, to the tune of £1 billion, and provide all the job opportunities that my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) suggested. That is bunkum. There is no evidence to support that assertion. I have questioned closely the people involved in the development corporation, including the chairman and the chief executive. I have asked for evidence. I have asked those concerned to name one company that is prepared to say, "With the barrage I will come. Without it I will not come." The development that has taken place, in Cardiff in the past 12 to 18 months is evidence that the barrage is not necessary.
We want to see the redevelopment of Cardiff, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) said, and the opportunities of the docklands properly developed. We appreciate that the motor for that must be public expenditure and, because we support that, we applaud and welcome the initiatives of the past 18 months.
Those new developments precede the barrage. Although it is well known in south Wales that there are major objections, to the barrage, those investments have still taken place because people have said, "We are prepared to invest even though the barrage might not eventually be developed."
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth and I have a different understanding of the word "environment", as will emerge during the debate. He is concerned with the environment in terms of opportunities for its enjoyment by individuals--new housing, schools and social facilities. In other words, he is thinking of the enjoyment that would be derived from looking out across the lake, which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) described as varying in colour between green and brown. That is the environment as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth
Column 260understands it, and he believes that the construction of a barrage would enhance the environment. I disagree with him.
Numerous letters that have circulated among hon. Members have said that we are considering essentially a Labour case, and it is a pity that the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter), who made that point, is no longer in his place. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has written to hon. Members, as has Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, saying that this is a Labour initiative. The letters are freely available, so I will not quote them.
I wish to make it clear, especially to some of my hon. Friends who may be undecided about which way to vote on this issue, that this is not a Labour party scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West pointed out that the scheme was the brainchild of Nicholas Edwards. He conceived it, set up the development corporation and developed a sweetheart relationship with south Glamorgan. I appreciate why that occurred. He has got south Glamorgan to present the case and, politics being what it is, those concerned have worked hard and have got support from the TUC and some of the party organisations in Cardiff.
But for every unit of the party supporting the scheme, at least one other opposes it. So if there is a Labour involvement in the scheme, the opposition to it is being led by the Labour party. Three of the four constituency parties in Cardiff oppose it. My county council of mid- Glamorgan was not even consulted about the scheme, despite the major regional impact that it would have. It was horrified by some of the implications.
My district council area of Rhymney valley, which is Labour controlled--we do not even see a Conservative candidate at election time--is opposed to it. With one exception, all Members who represent the valleys are opposed to it. In other words, if there is a Labour involvement, the Labour party and the environmentalist lobby are leading the opposition to the scheme.